Athletics rookie returns from gruesome injury to avoid being next 'Moonlight' Graham

Every player’s first major-league at-bat is a milestone moment. For Oakland Athletics rookie Dustin Fowler though, it meant more than most can begin to understand.

The 23-year-old outfielder finally had his moment on Wednesday. He was recalled by Oakland hours before the game, then summoned by manager Bob Melvin to pinch hit for Mark Canha in the seventh inning of their 4-1 loss to Houston. Though the at-bat resulted in an out — Fowler lined out to second baseman Jose Altuve — it was a major victory. That’s because 10 months ago, Fowler’s major league career began and nearly ended in a matter of minutes.

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Fowler, who then played for the New York Yankees, suffered a gruesome injury in his MLB debut against the Chicago White Sox on June 29. That Fowler played in a game but never batted threatened to put him in the unfortunate company of “Moonlight” Graham, a player who’s legacy was famously immortalized in the baseball film “Field of Dreams.”

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Fowler guaranteed that wouldn’t happen on Wednesday, and we’re all hopeful it marks the beginning of a long career.

Who is Moonlight Graham?

On June 29, 1905, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham made his major league debut for the New York Giants against the Brooklyn Superbas. Though he didn’t know what his future held that day, it would be his only chance to play in a big league game.

Graham entered the game as an eighth-inning defensive replacement for regular right fielder George Browne after the team scored 11 runs the previous inning. The Giants would bat again, but Graham never did. He was left waiting in the on-deck circle, and would never see a pitch in a big league game.


Just like in the movie, the real Moonlight Graham would become a doctor once his playing days were over. But his biggest claim to fame was always being the guy who never got to bat in the big leagues.

What type of injury did Dustin Fowler suffer?

Ironically, Fowler’s MLB debut also came on June 29. He was starting in right field for the New York Yankees when he attempted to catch a fly ball in foul territory at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Unfortunately, he would suffer a severe right knee injury when he collided with a metal electrical box. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, where he was diagnosed with an open rupture of the patella tendon.

Months later, Fowler would file a lawsuit against the White Sox. The suit claimed the White Sox were negligent in not securing the unpadded electrical box, leading to an injury that altered his career.

A's outfielder Dustin Fowler completed his journey back from a gruesome knee injury that threatened to make him the next Moonlight Graham. (AP)
A’s outfielder Dustin Fowler completed his journey back from a gruesome knee injury that threatened to make him the next Moonlight Graham. (AP)

Why did the Yankees trade Dustin Fowler?

Despite his injury, the Yankees never lost faith in Fowler becoming a major league player. The reality is, the outfield already was their deepest position, so they decided to include Fowler in a trade with the A’s that brought back starting pitcher Sonny Gray. The Yankees also parted with prospects James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo.


Gray is still a part of the Yankees rotation in 2018, and is under team control through 2019.

What does Dustin Fowler’s future hold?

Many view Fowler as the A’s center fielder of the future. Once he proved healthy in spring training, he was expected to win the job on opening day. Unfortunately, his numbers didn’t back up the expectations, so he began the season in the minors. Since then, the A’s have been unable to settle on a center fielder, so Fowler’s chance could be coming right now.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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